DDCom: Rilwan murder suspect Munaz left for Syria with Yameen’s aid

Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla, 28.

Mohamed Munaz, Th. Omadhoo, - one of the suspects in the 2014 abduction and murder of a journalist – travelled out of Maldives with assistance from then-President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, according to the Disappearances and Deaths Commission (DDCom).

Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla, 28, a journalist who worked for Minivan News (later renamed Maldives Independent), was last seen on August 8, 2014. According to DDCom, their investigation uncovered Rilwan was abducted from outside his apartment in Hulhumale’, forced into a car, and then into a dinghy and into a fishing boat, after which he was beheaded and thrown overboard.

In a press conference Thursday, DDCom member Misbah Abbas said the commission’s investigation uncovered Munaz, one of the suspects in the case, met with Yameen before he left Maldives in 2017.

“The commission has been informed one of the suspects in the case – Mohamed Munaz of Th. Omadhoo – met with then-President and told him without implicating himself how Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla was forced into a car and killed, and the people involved, and how they did it. The investigation also established he traveled to Syria with assistance from the then-President,” he said.

Misbah said the commission’s informant was someone who had been close to Munaz, and someone who Munaz had tried to recruit to join the fighting in Syria, after he left for the war zone.

DDCom’s president Fareesha Abdulla (L) and member Misbah Abbas (R) during a press conference on December 15, 2022. (Photo/President's Office)

Misbah recalled when Yameen, during the 2018 presidential campaign in GDh. Madaveli, said with certainty that Rilwan was dead.

The commission has been informed through more than one source regarding Munaz’s meeting with Yameen, he said.

DDCom’s president Fareesha Abdulla said top state officials at the time was found to have had links with criminal gangs. She said that starting 2014, the government had cleared the criminal records of many people under the pretense of facilitating greater employment opportunities for the youth, and they were appointed to jobs within the government and at state-owned enterprises without rehabilitation.

Fareesha said that another suspect in the case – Azlif Rauf was pictured at a function attended by Yameen in violation of a 2013 house arrest order.

“We have established that the then-president used state resources and other ways to fund criminal gangs, and that the funds were given under the pretense of supporting sports clubs and various youth-centric initiatives,” she said.

Fareesha said the information was provided to the commission by a senior government official at the time.

DDcom said they found Rilwan’s murder involved elements of both violent extremism and criminal gangs. Six people implicated in Rilwan’s murder, including Munaz, travelled to Syria and are presumed dead.